Tessa McWatt is a Guyanese Canadian author and a creative writing professor at the University of East Anglia. Her novels include Dragons Cry, Vital Signs and Higher Ed. Shame on Me, her first work of nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Prize for nonfiction.
Her latest is The Snow Line, a novel involving a wedding in India that brings four unlikely people together: a yoga instructor named Yosh, a cousin of the bride named Monica, a childhood friend of the bride named Reema and an elderly guest named Jackson, who has brought his wife’s ashes with him.
As the wedding festivities unfold, the characters come together in unexpected and moving ways. They end up travelling together to scatter the ashes, complicating the dynamics and revealing even more secrets.
About writing The Snow Line, McWatt said:
“The wedding is a symbol of coming together and of belonging to the people who are joining two families. If you’re single or alone at a wedding, it’s a difficult thing to be. There’s all this joy in joining and you’re feeling slightly out of place. I wanted my characters to all experience that. So each of the four has an outsider’s position. I’m interested in this idea of belonging, but I’m also really interested in ‘unbelonging’ as a way of excavating other ways of being that maybe categories of belonging don’t always allow.
“To belong to a nation, to belong to an ethnic group — or a hockey team or a football team or anything like that — to have that kind of sense of this is where you are, tends to come with an ideology attached to it. And so those ideologies can leave a lot of people out. Sometimes unbelonging can be a tool for greater empathy than belonging in one particular space.”
“The novel is set in the financial crisis of 2008. It’s the beginning of the point that we’re at today — where we saw the vulnerability and the fragility of a system that we all have come to take for granted. We’ve seen that even more during COVID.
“The fact that there was a bailout of the banks, and the changes that we needed to put into place then didn’t happen, we’re still dealing with some of those problems. It was an important moment for me to think about “One of the reasons it’s called The Snow Line is the snow line is a latitudinal point where it’s cold enough for compounds to change and become solid ice grains. So for me, it’s an important moment of molecular change: that financial crash forced us to think about a more molecular change. All of the characters are faced with that, as they try to reach the snow line.
“It’s a fundamental change that I’m really interested in.” in terms of molecular change.